RED WITH WHITE CORNERS
RÖD MED VITA KNUTAR
Martijn in t'Veld and Joar Nango, two of the six exhibiting artists
TEXT The little red cottage with white corners is an iconic swedish image. The motif has been reproduced countless times in all forms of visual media. It is always surrounded by beautiful nature or embedded in a landscape. It is often accompanied by green fields, birch trees, a blue sky, a calm lake and a flagpole with the swedish flag. The sun, a spruce forest, flowers in bloom, a low stone wall or white fluffy clouds are also possible companions. Among images that have shaped and established a sense of nationality among swedes it occupies a prominent position. Many nations and regions have similar counterparts. It ultimately represents urban dreams of a lost paradise; the simple, safe and harmonic life.
All utopian projects formulated and undertaken in the last century have failed miserably. We're in the midst of year 2008 CE. The countries of the West are waging a holy war for the black gold. The climate is going bananas, imitating the pattern of capitalism. The results are rising water levels and ferocious distasters that kill hundreds of thousands, and forces many more to emigrate. Meanwhile security cameras monitor every inch of the public sphere, supposedly to detect the terrorists that might lurk behind every corner. The eavesdropping-law that is widely recognised as Lex Orwell is passed in Sweden. Every wire is legally tapped. 1968 is celebrated as nostalgia and myth - but not as option. 1984 is drawing closer.
Confronted with the prospect of dystopia and faced with the dangers of the outside world we are continuously encouraged to create our private utopias within the confined space of our homes. An ideal home should be beautiful, cozy and able to stand the approaching storm. Home-styling, refurnishing and interior design provide a comforting retreat. Society remains an organic body but the walls between the cells grow thicker. The IKEA Catalogue is the second most widely distributed publication in the world, superseding Mao's Little Red Book but not yet the Bible.
Off the Hook Gallery is one version of the idyllic image of the swedish red cottage with white corners. It is also a physical manifestation of that image. It is not however, a red cottage with white corners. On the contrary, it is a simulation, an attempt to mimic the real thing. It works as a couliss and a mirage, to be used for artistic reflection, commentary and contemplation. Basically it is an old playground transformed into a new one.
Bengt Kroken Nilsson - A Pedalling Life
Bike, 190 x 80 cm, 1944 - 2008
It is only fair that the man who built the gallery also made his debut as a visual artist here. Using the ready-made technique, Kroken created a very simple yet refined work of art. The object on display was the bike that he got for his confirmation in 1944 and has used ever since. It is modified and enhanced (most striking is the red beer crate covered with stickers) and has also been used as a canvas, seemingly inspired by 1950s american abstract expressionism. But the color-field painting is not only ornamental, it also fills a practical purpose; preventing it from being stolen. It's been stolen twice but found its way back both times. This bike has literally rolled through history, it was here on this ground long before the pavilion was built, and it's been roaming the streets of Årjäng and Lennartsfors (and every gravel road in-between) for 64 years. Bengt describes A pedalling life as a provocative and retrospective Gesamtkunstverk.
Go Ahead Rob Us - Green Crystal, Brown Crystal-Adieu
Digital video loop, silent, 7:07 minutes, 2008
When experiencing its interplay with the gallery space at Off the Hook you could hardly tell that this video was not a site-specific work. The fact is that Green Crystal, Brown Crystal originally was made for the exhibition Adieu Interessant by artist Tal R at Contemporary Fine Arts, a high art-gallery adjacent to the Museum Island in Berlin. Artists from Copenhagen were asked by Tal R to interpret the large collages that made up the main part of the exhibition. Among them where Go Ahead Rob Us, a duo consisting of Stine Tranekjaer and Anne Werner. The 22 films where shown together, creating a video collage (the 48 min DVD Adieu Interessant Film Club can be purchased from CFA). Taken out of this context and re-edited, it was sent to Årjäng. Green Crystal, Brown Crystal is a subtle yet hypnotizing kaleidoscope of shapes and colours.
Tanya Busse - Untitled (Postcard)
Postcard, 14,7 x 10,3 cm, 2008
A postcard depicting Sista styverns trappor in Södermalm, Stockholm. A banal message: "Sending a regard from Stockholm. Here it's also nice, but in a different way. Warm regards from me". The card has a torn green "Return To Sender"-sticker, and a stamp with the date September 18th, 1988. It was addressed to Hilding and Bertha Andersson in Bjärn, Karlanda, Årjäng, but never reached this destination. Twenty years later, Tanya Busse found it in an antique shop on Torstraße in Berlin. She brought the misplaced postcard back to Årjäng, in hopes of engaging with the personal history of place by finding its proper recipients.
Joar Nango and Martijn in t'Veld - Holiday Piece
Two aquarel paintings, 20 x 14,5 cm, 2008
For "Holiday Piece", the two artists each made an aquarel depicting the gallery and its surrounding landscape. Inspiration came from the tradition of classical landscape painting and the setting of the gallery, that much resembles the iconographic idea of the swedish idyll. The completed paintings were not present at the Red with white corners exhibition, instead they were mounted in the homes of Joar and Martijn (in Berlin and Rotterdam, respectively).
"It is here that the idealistic character of the gallery is experienced to its fullest; as a painted image of the gallery, presented in a place where the world depicted on the painting is absent. 'The ideal' can only exist as a concept, and in order to maintain its perfection it has to remain non-materialised, like an unfulfilled desire."